|Project Details||Mauritania’s government has taken several steps to bring more sustainability and transparency to its fishing partnerships. One example was the adoption of the Fisheries Transparency Initiative (FiTI), which aims to eliminate the reliance on more secretive fishing contracts that are more likely to contribute to overfishing. In turn, several agreements have been made with the EU require fishing companies to follow EU policies, which potentially could set up a more protective legal framework, while giving European vessels access to the abundant fishing zones on a payment for access basis.|
The EU-Mauritanian 2006 agreement was set up a payment for maritime access scheme. For only trawlers with freezing containers on board, the maximum tonnage under the 2006 agreement was set at 440,000 tons per year. In return, 86 million euros per year is poured into a single account in Mauritania’s public treasury, of which 11 million is to be allocated to the development of fishing policies and 1 million should be allocated to the management of the Bank of Arguin. The GOM has full discretion about regarding the use to which the money is put. With demand in the EU for fish rising at a rate of 6% per year since 2009, the agreement has been extended in June 2016 (Lorenz and Koigi 2016). The new EU deal with Mauritania would permit 100 EU fishing vessels (including trawlers) into Mauritania’s waters in return for support to the Mauritanian fishing industry. EU vessels will be allowed to fish for shrimp, demersal fish, tuna and small pelagic fish in Mauritania’s Exclusive Economic Zone to a total of about 280,000 tons per year. For the catch, the EU will pay Mauritania 59.125 million euros per year and 4.125 million euros to support the development of Mauritania’s sector-specific fisheries policy (EU 2016). Vessels fishing off Mauritania’s coast are under EU common fisheries policy, which provides a stronger legal framework for defending the common pool resource.
Alternatively, China’s arrangement with the Mauritanian government has been met with heavy complaints from Mauritanian and international organizations. The Chinese, who signed a contract in 2010 that permitted them unlimited outtake from Mauritania’s waters in return for the construction of a fish processing plant (also which will benefit Chinese companies), are a main actor in illegal and destructive fishing practices across West Africa. To gain legitimacy, the have taken up a local partnership model, hiring local fishing companies in order to justify their invasive methods in Mauritanian waters. Yet, their fishing methods are equivalent to those that depleted their own fishing waters in past years, including the exploitation of the Bank of Arguin’s fragile and important spawning areas (In 2014, the government modified the Fishing Code to permit fishing in artisanal areas to all boats inferior to 15 meters, essentially opening these restricted zones to Chinese fishing boats). Aside from these violations, Chinese vessels pay workers less than the local Mauritanian fleets, providing a double blow to the nation’s ecology and economy. Finally, with the catch that is considered trash for the international market, the Chinese have developed more than 10 highly polluting fish meal factories on mainland Mauritania in the city of Nouadhibou (Baxter and Wenjing 2016).
Despite the greater transparency in the EU fishing agreements, the pay-for-access scheme essentially serves as a neo-colonial claim to Mauritania’s natural heritage. Yet, the more ‘secret’ exploitation agreements forged with the Chinese are showing signs that the current practices could essentially deplete the resource. In the EU’s 25 years of investment in Mauritania’s local fishing sector, very little progress in fishery policy, protection, and sector development has been demonstrated. So, both the EU and the Chinese policies represent processes that are limiting what is one of the country’s most important sources of sustained wealth.
Efforts to usurp this negative pattern of development have been carried out, mostly following processes of democratic practice in this highly autocratic nation (Tesch 2007). In 2005, the fisheries minister chose to ban the return of Irish fishing trawler Atlantic Dawn during the EU fisheries talks with Mauritania. The super trawler (renamed Annelies Ilena) had already been banned from many waters around the globe, due to its size and potential intake. The vessel measures more than 145 meters long with a potential to capture 14,055 tons and the capacity to freeze 7,000 tons of fish. After an outcry from local fishermen over the ship’s potential to destroy their livelihoods, the ship was banned in 2000 and 2006 from Mauritanian waters (Clancy 2015). Secondly, the leaders of the opposition party, le Rassemblement des Forces Démocratiques (RFD) have issued multiple declarations condemning the destructive fishing policies of the Mauritanian government. It is recommended that international NGOs and other continue to study the impacts of the fishing industry on the coastal ecosystems.